Date: October 23, 2009
Lewis N Wolff, CEO
Wolff-Di Napoli Development Co.
11828 La Grange Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90025-5212
RE: Some Solutions to the Woes of the Oakland Athletics
Dear Mr. Wolff,
I have been a fan of the Athletics since they moved from Philadelphia to Kansas City in 1955 when I was a child. I have a deep love for the game of baseball and the Athletics in particular. I am writing to you to urge you to use your influence to make some changes in the team and the Coliseum for the 2010 season and beyond.
As a season ticket holder, I am concerned that the attendance at the Oakland Coliseum has been declining over the last three years (along with the teams record), but it dropped precipitously during the last half of the 2009 season, when the team was playing over .500 ball. I attended several mid-week night games when there were not more than 4-5000 people in the stands. The paid attendance was always 3-4000 more than that, which says to me that the other season ticket holders stayed away in droves. This is not good for A’s or your considerable investment in the team.
I realize that low gate revenue hampers management’s efforts to make any significant moves that result in increasing the cost of running the team, but there are some things that can be done to improve the fan’s experiences which will result in increased attendance, better press coverage, increased TV advertizing revenues, and improved player morale. These things can be accomplished without large outlays of capital. Some may take some time, but others can be implemented in the 2010 season.
By far the most important change that needs to be made is to fire (or transfer) Bob Geren from the job of Field Manager. It is obvious to any of us who study the game and the A’s that he does not have a clue how to manage a team or inspire the players to play at their top potential. Contrast Bob Geren, with his reserved demeanor and flat affect, to Tony La Russa, who kept his cool but could inspire mediocre players to achieve greatness. We need a manager who can do that. Bob Geren is definitely a liability to you and the team.
You have the power to see that Bob Geren is no longer the manager of the A’s. I know that Bob and Billy Beane are best of friends, but you need to do what is best for the organization and the team, not what’s best for Beane and/or Geren. In any other franchise, three sub-.500 seasons in a row would have resulted in a management change. Please consider exerting your power as Managing Partner to make this happen. Hopefully you can get this done in 2010. If not, then please don’t exercise the club’s option for 2011.
Other things that could be done to make the fan experience more enjoyable, and which would get more people in the seats, are:
1) In these bad economic times, have some more midweek nights with reduced prices on tickets and/or food items to encourage more people to come to a game. People look for bargains when times are tough.
2) Do away with the All-You-Can-Eat seats which are rarely occupied (especially for mid-week games), take the tarp off 2 more sections (5 sections total) in the third deck behind home plate, and charge the same price or a few dollars more than bleacher seats. That would get more people in the stands. Again it’s the economy.
3) If you don’t like No. 2) (or in addition), put outfield plaza-level and field-level seats on sale for half price starting 30 minutes before game time or at game time. You’d need a little more crowd control around the box office, but it could be done without costing much. People who want to see the whole game will still buy tickets at full price, and the additional people in the stands would buy lots more food, drink and souvenirs.
4) Put some color in the bathrooms to jazz them up. They are so bland and dingy now. For example, the River Cats’ restrooms have inspiring quotes from famous players or managers stenciled above the sinks. That doesn’t sound very important but it does improve the ambience in the stadium. Some quotes from baseball and football would make sense.
The primary goal of anything you do must be to get more people to come to A’s games. Having a team on the field that is exciting to watch is the key. We have great young players and they will be much better in 2010 than they were in 2009 when they were getting their feet wet in the Majors. But to get the most out of them, we desperately need a new manager. How about Carney Lansford? He’s available, I hear. Or make Ty Waller Manager and Carney the bench coach.
Thanks for considering the points I raised. As a long-time A’s fan, I only want what is best for the team, as I am sure you do too.
Belinda Laird Hylinski
Feel free to pirate any language from the above and write your own letter to Lew. Maybe we can get this done. Go A’s!!!
Rickey Records: I had forgotten how much I loved Rickey Henderson. I was present when he broke Lou Brock’s previous stolen base record (938 swipes)
and then put the new record completely out of reach by increasing it to 1046, a number that most people in baseball say will never be seen again. But he holds some other records that don’t get as much ink as breaking Lou Brock’s record: he has the most lead off homeruns in history (81) and the most stolen bases in a single season (130). Rickey scored 2,295 runs in his career (the most by any player), and he is in the top five in several other categories.
He truly is the best lead-off hitter of all time and the best player in A’s history. It was a thrill to be present while he experienced the greatest recognitions a player can receive in the sport of baseball–induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 26th and the retirement of his number 24 at the Oakland Coliseum August 1st.
Hall of Fame Trip: I was fortunate to travel with Sports Travel and Tours on their Induction Plus trip last week. We attended A’s games in the new Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park and Citifield, the new home of the NY Mets. (More on these ballparks in a future post.) But the crown jewel of the adventure was two days in Cooperstown, NY, to watch Rickey Nelson Henley Henderson be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In case you are wondering, he was named after the singer/actor son of Ozzie Nelson.
Four years ago, my husband and I had visited Cooperstown, and found a sleepy historic town
on the edge of beautiful Lake Otsego in upstate New York,
where the sidewalks rolled up when the sun went down. It was blissful then, having the Hall of Fame to ourselves for a few hours,
to tour slowly around the Gallery, reading about each Hall of Famer on the bronze plaques which are displayed along the walls in the order in which each player was inducted into the Hall of Fame. A few years earlier, the Hall had built a large addition, part of which added a rotunda at the end of the Gallery to accommodate new additions to the Hall.
But on this 2009 trip, we arrived in Cooperstown on Friday, July 25th, to overcast skies and hordes of people clogging the streets. No solitude was to be found in the Hall of Fame either, which is as it should be on Induction Weekend. Parents pointed out to their children the plaques of the players the dad or mom had loved when they were young. Others stood reverently in front of the bronze images of Babe Ruth, or Lou Gehrig or Ted Williams.
Rickey’s plaque site in the new rotunda was empty as his bronze wouldn’t be installed until after the induction ceremony the next day.
That same afternoon we went to the Clark Sports Center for the “Connecting Generations” event. It was a lot more fun than I anticipated. Three Hall of Famers
–former A’s manager, Dick Williams, Ryne Sandberg, and Goose Gossage–competed against four families from the audience in a Family-Feud-style baseball trivia contest. The Hall of Famers won by a small margin and the audience learned some things about the greats of the game. Harold Reynolds charmingly emceed the event. I did pretty well answering the questions along with the contestants.
I’ll stop here for today. This is part of a long article which I will give you installments over the next few days. There is just too much to share with you in one post.
Tomorrow: Induction Day. Future posts: Induction Ceremony, Rickey Steals the Show, Rickey’s Number Retired in Oakland.